The nature of work is changing.
As a freelancer, you are well aware that “work” can now take many forms. It’s often not tied to a job. It’s often not a full-time salary with benefits, but a combination of work arrangements and contracts.
Where freelancers work can be just as varied as how they work.
In this article, we’ll look at the four most popular office setups for freelancers and explore each one to see their positive traits and potential drawbacks.
As a freelancer, one of the most important things for you to learn–about yourself–is how you work best and what setup is right for you.
To determine that, you should evaluate your options, consider your own, personal working style, and then maybe test out a few options to see how it goes.
Option 1: Working from home
It used to be that when you told someone you worked from home, they would assume that it was code for “unemployed”.
Now, millions of people have jobs that allow them to work from home either full or part time.
The upsides to working from home are obvious. You avoid all of the hassles associated with office life, you avoid commuting and save time not having to drive to the office, plus you can basically work anywhere, any time, and in any attire (ahem).
But, the downsides can sometimes be less pronounced. They’re often psychological and affect the way you think and feel about the work that you’re doing. It can be tempting to treat work less like a job and more like a hobby that you do around the house. It can also damage your ability to create a healthy work-life balance as you can sit down at your computer to check email any time, day or night.
Working from home is a great luxury. But it comes with much responsibility. Disciplined freelancers can often make it work for them, but it takes practice and mental focus.
Those choosing to work from home should keep an eye on their habits and see if they may benefit from changing up their environment.
Pros: Very easy, free, flexible
Cons: Limited separation of work/life, at-home distractions, limited social interaction
Option 2: Working in public
We’ve all been to Starbucks and seen the counters and tables crowded with remote workers cranking out market reports while they sip their latte.
The freedom and flexibility of working in a public space can be alluring–it even has a sense of romanticism. You get to be out among the public but not feel trapped or confined in an office. For many, this solution seems like the perfect compromise between working from home and working in an office.
But, it doesn’t come without some negative aspects.
For one, these public spaces are often crowded and busy. They can be supremely distracting and are certainly not ideal for any kind of phone call or meeting. Secondly, the actual space that you have to work is often just a small sliver of a countertop or bar–you may be crammed in between strangers and not have the space you need.
That’s not to mention that there is often some social stigma attached to holing up at the same table for 8 hours in your favorite coffee shop (hopefully you at least leave a good tip!)
Pros: Cheap/free, social interaction,
Cons: Busy, noisy, distracting, less than ideal work space
Option 3: Working in a coworking space
One of the reasons coworking has become so popular is because it offers a lot of the benefits of having an office, but without the price or the rigid nature of working in a more traditional office. It’s a happy medium for many remote workers and provides the best of both worlds without the full drawbacks of either.
Although generally more affordable than renting a dedicated office, even a hot desk at a co-working space could run you a few hundred dollars per month.
That being said, the money may be well spent depending on your work style and habits.
If you’re the kind of freelancer who misses the social aspect of an office job or you are actively looking for work and clients, then having the opportunity to rub shoulders with people could be a big bonus.
On top of that, coworking spaces often host events and have gatherings that will give you a chance to learn new skills and meet new people.
These community features alone may make it the right choice for a social freelancer who is looking to network and connect with like-minded individuals.
Pros: Social interaction, networking, events, learning, separate work space
Cons: Medium cost, shared/open working area, set work location
Option 4: Working in a private office
If you’re the kind of person who needs extreme focus and does best to separate your work from your home life, then having an office can be exactly what you need.
There are some huge advantages to having a private office, even if it does come with additional costs. It may help you to focus and get into “work” mode each morning when you leave your house and settle in, in front of your computer. It may also help you establish yourself as a legitimate business person for client meetings or videoconferences.
The biggest drawback is, of course, the cost.
But, when it comes down to it, the costs of renting an office are not that astronomically high in most cases for an individual freelancer. While it may cost a few thousand dollars to rent a large space for a team, as an individual, you can look for a small office that is only 150-250 square foot.
Even in an expensive city like San Francisco, average office rentals run about $3 per square foot. That would put you at about $450-750 per month to have your own, private office space.
That’s not exactly a small chunk of change, but it could easily be a smart investment if it significantly boosts your ability to concentrate and makes you more efficient at your work.
Pros: Dedicated work space, professional appearance, clear work-life separation
Cons: Highest cost option, isolated work environment, set work location
At the end of the day, there is no one “best” solution.
Part of being a freelancer is knowing yourself, learning your own habits, and then deciding which option is best for you.